The CDC says at least 21 people across 13 states have been infected with the outbreak strain Salmonella Oranienburg, seven of which have been hospitalized. The ages of those infected range from less than one year to 80, with a median age of 24.
"People should know that reptiles and amphibians carry salmonella, and they can best prevent getting and spreading the illness by learning safe pet handling techniques", Hanna Oltean, an epidemiologist with the state Department of Health, said in a prepared statement. Specifically, the red-eared slider turtle was implicated along with other turtles that were larger than 4 inches in length. These germs can then spread to their bodies or items in their habitats, such as their tanks, food and water.
Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps between 12 and 72 hours after infection.
In general, the CDC says to keep turtles away from children under five years of age, adults 65 years of age and older, and anyone else with a weaker immune system. The illness usually lasts four to seven days, and most individuals recover without treatment.
In some people, the illness may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized.
Adults should supervise hand washing for young children. Additionally, turtles should not be kissed or snuggled as this can spread germs to humans through the face and mouth. Those with pet turtles should also avoid cleaning turtle habitats, toys and pet supplies in kitchens or other places where food is prepared.
Pet retailers are strongly encouraged to provide information on disease risk and prevention measures to consumers purchasing reptiles. CDC officials also using standard antibiotic susceptibility testing methods from the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System to test 3 outbreak isolates, which also did not detect antibiotic resistance.
Epidemiologic and traceback investigations point to contact with pet turtles as the likely source of the outbreak. Of the 17 people interviewed, 12 (71%) reported contact with a pet turtle.
For the most recent case counts in the Salmonella Oranienburg outbreak linked to contact with pet turtles, check out the Contagion® Outbreak Monitor.
They're illegal to sell in the USA anyway.